Blog Header Test 05 Taking stock of primary prevention in Melbourne’s West

September 7, 2021

As part of our advocacy work, The Western Region Primary Prevention Taskforce recently worked together to identify what we need to protect and strengthen the prevention system in the west. As many of our partners have recently gone through a process of identifying health needs in order to build four year plans, we brought together the wealth of knowledge that has been gained to tell a story of what this looks like at a regional level. We also identified the foundations for an effective primary prevention system, and looked at how we have worked towards an integrated system in Melbourne’s west.

Read on for our highlights below, or click here to read the full piece written by Anna Vu, HealthWest’s Prevention Manager.

We must respond to community need and partner with community to lead

Photo from previous project.

Melbourne’s west is rich in diversity, which makes it such a wonderful place. However, this means that ‘one-size-fits-all’ approaches to prevention will not benefit the whole population, especially not communities that need the most support. Not only does work need to be tailored to be effective, but communities being involved and leading in all stages of prevention work will mean that they feel ownership and in control of the work that will benefit them.

Our prevention partners are already working with communities in their own areas to make this happen.


Addressing the social determinants of health is crucial in Melbourne’s west

Photo from

Our communities have asked for action on the social determinants of health. When asked about health priorities, many groups said they want to see more work to increase social connectedness and reduce loneliness. For better health, they want action to reduce race-based discrimination and acknowledgement of our First Nations history. Our communities want to reduce financial and economic hardship, attention to environmental sustainability and places and spaces where they can be active.

We know that the social determinants of health are important for prevention. Extensive research has found that the conditions in which people live their lives account for 30-55% of health outcomes.

We also know this through the population data for the west, that shows that many parts of our region experience greater socioeconomic disadvantage than other regions.


Prevention work must take a holistic, integrated and relationship-based systems approach

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

As a region, we need to look beyond individual risk-factors for ill-health (like poor diet or high blood pressure), and look closer at what puts populations at risk. This involves taking a systems approach: understanding all of the different things that influence health, and making sure effort is directed where it is needed. In this approach, each partner needs to respond by taking action in spaces where they have the most influence. In a prevention system, local government will have different areas where they have influence compared to state government, and the same can be said for community health, women’s health, Primary Care Partnerships, and a whole host of other players. A well-integrated system will have all these different players communicating with each other on common goals and leveraging each other’s power to influence change.

In the west, we have acted to integrate our work across the system through preventing violence against women, and through working to increase evaluation capacity in the region.


Prevention priorities need action

While each prevention partner in the west has its own priorities developed based on the needs of their communities and their own organisations’ strengths, both our community consultation and our analysis of population level data has helped to identify those which are pressing for our region. These include:

Mental health and wellbeing

Our population experiences psychological distress more than other parts of Melbourne, and our communities are concerned about mental wellbeing, particularly because of how this has been impacted by the pandemic. Our communities want the west to be socially connected, fair and for everyone to be able to contribute, either through paid employment or volunteering.

Overweight and obesity

This is a growing concern in many parts in the west, and our communities want ways that the community can prevent this, such as places to play and exercise.

The health impacts of climate change

Melbourne’s west has areas that are particularly vulnerable to heatwaves, and our communities are aware that socioeconomic disadvantage increases many people’s vulnerability.

Image by Rommel Diaz from Pixabay

Read the full paper: Taking stock of primary prevention in Melbourne’s West

For more info

Anna Vu, Prevention Manager; (03) 9248 9659